Proving the ROI of Enhanced Customer Experiences: A Discussion with AT&T's John Cushman

John Cushman

John Cushman is the Vice President of ESales & Service for AT&T and has seen a lot in his 25 years in the information industry. John Cushman of AT&T has the recipe to create what he calls a sticky relationship that will keep the customer loyal. In this interview Cushman talks about a customer-centric vision and the new demand to conduct business away from office.

Can you tell us about the AT&T business direct portfolio?

The AT&T BusinessDirect® portfolio is responsible for all B2B eCommerce for AT&T. The AT&T BusinessDirect® web portal is used by all of AT&T’s business customers to complete customer service transactions online. These transactions include rerouting network traffic in real time, testing circuits, checking network alarms, reporting service problems, placing orders, paying bills electronically, and performing other customer service-related tasks online.

Through the use of the tools on AT&T BusinessDirect®, the customer enjoys faster service intervals, proactive notification of significant network events, and the ability to leverage their existing business processes in managing their network online. The electronic bonding capabilities allow communication with the customer's internal systems for ordering and status, trouble tickets and inventory—without any human intervention.

The wireless industry is one of the most fast paced and competitive industries—considering the economic climate, how has this changed AT&T’s approach to customer engagement?

AT&T’s approach to customer engagement has multiple facets. Through the use of online customer self-service tools—such as AT&T BusinessDirect®--the customer spends less time managing the telecom aspect of their business, allowing the customer to focus on those activities that will enable business success. The customer wants technology to eliminate queues and shorten the length of time they must wait. Time is money.

There is also an increasing need for the customers to conduct business away from the traditional notion of an office with a PC on the desk. Moving additional functionalities to sophisticated mobile devices keeps AT&T connected with the customer even while the customer is on the go.

You are speaking on a panel on "Proving the ROI of Enhanced Customer Experiences" at the Customer Experience Summit in Chicago. In keeping with your panel topic, what is your number one argument for the existence of customer engagement programs?

Customer engagement programs are necessary because they are the lifeblood of any business. Research has shown that customer satisfaction will create advocates for your business, and customer dissatisfaction will make the customer even more likely to share their bad experience with others. So, my top argument for the existence of customer engagement programs is that they are necessary for creating a sticky relationship with the customer that keeps them loyal.

What does a comprehensive customer-centric vision look like?

A comprehensive customer-centric vision is proactive to meeting customers’ demands. It requires the best efforts to retain a profitable customer, cross-sell and up–sell the customer while minimizing churn. It is a real-time, 360-degree view of the overall experience of a customer.

You’ve been in the information technology field for 25 years, what kind of innovation do you think is on the horizon (i.e. product development, mobile content etc…)?

• Mobile content will continue to be in demand. Delivering more information, faster, to hand-held devices is rapidly becoming a business standard.
• Sophistication of online applications. In addition to providing data, they will be proactive in performing analysis and providing insights not otherwise obvious to the end user. Applications will also report out recommended corrective actions.
• Cloud Computing: Due to tightening budgets, and ease of implementation, the Internet will become the main channel for deployment of software applications.
• Unified Communications: As the workforce continues to become more mobile, the need to receive communications in a variety of channels (voice, fax, text, chat) is vital.
• Digital Signage: Allows companies to keep advertising and marketing more up-to-date, more targeted, and more attractive to the target audience.
• Data Integration: The need for tools that integrate disparate sources of data into a common, related interface is an absolute necessity as data analysis become more sophisticated.

Interview by Blake Landau, Publisher